The Failure of James Buchanan

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In 1856, a Presidential election occurred in the United States at a crucial period. Sectionalism was at an all time high and a leader was needed to unite the country. However, the man who won the election did not prove to be this leader. Instead, his platform was based on a deliberate failure to lead. Due to James Buchanan’s position that supported popular sovereignty in the expanding United States, the country divided even further over the topic of slavery to the point that the Civil War became inevitable.
One of Buchanan’s most significant failures came in regards to the Dred Scott case. Although he had good intentions in how he wanted to handle this case, he did a terrible job. Phillip Auchampaugh describes this by stating, “His desire to keep himself with the Court in this case was but one illustration of his untiring attempts to avert the impending ruin of the Republic” (Auchampaugh 240). This case was very important because the Democratic Party and the Union were split over the question of slavery in the territories. “Many of the conservatives held that not only the continued existence of the party, but the preservation of the Union rested on the outcome of the case” (Auchampaugh 233). Clearly this case carried extreme importance, and it was vital that the decision made would keep the country together.
However, Buchanan acted irresponsibly in regards to the case. He corresponded with both Justice John Catron and Justice Robert Grier trying to learn when the decision of the case would occur (Auchampaugh 236). His purpose in this was to discover if the decision would occur before or after his inauguration, and as such, his inaugural address. In regards to the Chief Justice, “Buchanan emphatically denied that he and Taney had ...

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Works Cited
Auchampaugh, Phillip. "James Buchanan, The Court and the Dred Scott Case." Tennessee Historical Magazine January 9.4 (1926): 231-40. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2014.
Buchanan, James. "Fourth Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union." Washington D.C. 3 Dec. 1860. The American Presidency Project. Web. 18 May 2014.
Buchanan, James. "Inaugural Address." Inauguration. Washington D.C. 4 Mar. 1857. The American Presidency Project. Web.
Cole, Allen F. "ASSERTING HIS AUTHORITY: JAMES BUCHANAN'S FAILED VINDICATION." Pennsylvania History Winter 70.1 (2003): 81-97. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2014.
Smith, Elbert Benjamin. The Presidency of James Buchanan. Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 1975. Print.
Weatherman, Donald V. "James Buchanan on Slavery and Secession." Presidential Studies Quarterly Fall 15.4, Perspectives on the Presidency (1985): 796-805. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2014.
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